Saturday, June 02, 2007

Madder than a wet hen

Today we took the kids to Magic Mountain, one of those entertainment emporiums that tries to do everything for everyone. It's got miniature golf! It's got bumper boats! It's got go karts! It's got indoor arcade games! It's got a four story climbing area! It's a birthday center! It's got laser tag!

Normally, we don't frequent these places. The kids generally have a good time, but it's basically a black hole that your money disappears into. The girls want to play the arcade games for tickets, and you can't convince me that the way these things are set up, you aren't teaching your kids to gamble.

But, we were there today for birthday parties--two kids from Grace's class were having a joint party and so, there we were. But we could have Sarah mooching off of Grace's friends' party. So, it was my job to do fun things with Sarah while Grace did her thing.

So, we played $3 dollars worth of arcade games and then ate some lunch in the buffet. Surprisingly, the buffet was very cheap for Sarah and for me. (I guess they make more than enough money from everything else they offer--and they do charge for EVERYTHING else they offer, by the way.) Also surprising was that the food was surprisingly edible. I had some pizza and some salad.

After our lunch, Grace was done with playing and was into the birthday cake and gifts part of the party. So, Sarah and I played some miniature golf outside. Sarah did a surprisingly good job and had fun. But once that was done, we needed something else to do while the party was winding down.

So, we paid for the bumper boats--small circular boats that function like bumper cars. A single person maneuvers the boat with a small front-mounted motor that has two joysticks--one with a GO! button and one that sprays a jet of water. So, you drive your boat around, bump into the eight or nine other people in the swimming pool and spray each other good-naturedly with water. It's all good, clean wet fun, right?


Well, we paid inside at the counter and then headed out to wait our turn. A previous group of kids were already done and were being let out by the single attendant manning the bumper boats--a teenage girl, who I had already noticed while playing mini golf before. I thought that she moved pretty slowly and that the transition from one group to the next seemed to take an awful long time and that she was not very efficient. (This is an important point going forward with this story.)

While Sarah and I waited beyond the fence, the teenage attendant slowly and methodically tethering each boat to it's mooring clips and slowly moving to the next one. Slowly, slowly. Meanwhile all the other kids are sitting, waiting to be let out. Apparently, no one is allowed to move until Teenage tells them to. I guess she had to pull each boat flush with the pool to make sure they get out.

All fine and good, I guess, except for what happened next.

We're still waiting to even be let into the fence and for the other kids to let out. Finally, they are gone and we move in--a group of about six or seven. We have to wait one by one for the kids to be let in the boats and then Teenager moves on down the line, slowly, slowly. Meanwhile, we can see that the sky is darkening a bit and there is a threat of rain. But it hasn't happened yet, so maybe we'll get our time in . . . maybe if Teenager will get her butt in gear.

Finally, all the kids are in and we hear a rumble. Teenager uses her walkie talkie to check to see if she can let the kids go. The word is that as long as there is no lighting, no problem. Full speed ahead!

Finally, the kids are let to go and it begins to sprinkle. But, I'm not too concerned. The boats are equipped with sprayers anyway, right. The object is to get a little wet. Besides, we've already had to wait this long . . .

Well, about one minute into this fun time, the rain picks up. Teenager is going to let them go, I suppose until lighting strikes. (Presumably, she is able to kick it into high gear and display heretofore unseen speed if someone is in danger and lighting strikes become a possibility?) But, no she is going to let them play it out as the rain strengthens.

By now, Teenager is under the cafe umbrella that the parents (and I) have been standing under since we were let into the fence. She, it is clear, since she says as much, is much more concerned with getting wet than whether the pounding rain (and it is seriously pounding now) is impacting the fun or whether or not this is even acceptable weather to let the boats continue running.

I look over Teenager's shoulder and see that Sarah is trying to maneuver her boat, but she's not having any fun and the look of anguish on her face as she is drenched with water is all that I need. I storm over there, maneuver her boat to the side, tether it up and gather Sarah up. She's very upset and extremely wet--as am I. Without a look back to see what, if anything, Teenager is doing, I get Sarah back outside the gate and back into the building. By now we are absolutely soaked through our clothes and I might as well have jumped into the pool to swim Sarah to shore. She's crying and I'm extremely furious.

Lynda and Grace are finished with the party and the entire building is crowded with kids and families protecting themselves from the downpour that continues from outside. I get Sarah to Lynda who looks at us in semi-shock and turn to find some employees to complain to. I get someone's attention and very clearly, very angrily tell them what I think about how Teenager is handling things out by the bumper boats. She listens, immediately hands me a rain check coupon and asks if I want to speak to a manager.

YES! I say. She finds someone and I let him know, once again, my opinions about Teenager's judgement and how she seems much more interested in keeping herself dry than doing anything to facilitate the problems outside. And, oh yeah, if she's move her butt a bit faster, we might have actually had an opportunity to get in some fun before the bottom fell out of the sky.

The manager apologized and said that he'd talk to Teenager. I should have waited to verify that this actually took place, but then I moved on and got the kids together and we all headed home. Sarah was still pretty upset, but I apologized for her disappointment and assured her that we would use the rain check to come back another day when it wasn't raining and we'd try it again.

But, if that girl is working that day, I might just turn us around and do something else.


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